Today thousands of Americans pause to drink, eat and be merry for Cinco de Mayo. I thought it would be better to spend a little time sharing about Christmas in Mexico! The Mexican traditions go back hundreds of years and include the popular holiday flower the poinsettia (see January 7th Yule Log entry for more on those). Modern traditions in Mexico mirror much of the commercial and secular traditions of the US. Let’s focus more on the unique aspects of the holiday season in Mexico.
Early in the holiday season special market stalls are set-up in towns all across Mexico. These kiosks, or puestos, offer holiday shoppers all types of goods and crafts. There are foods, nuts, flowers, carvings, drinks, and more. Families gather to their homes and the community becomes the focus of holiday celebrations. One of the most interesting practices is the nightly processions as part of Las Posadas. This tradition begins on December 16th and occurs every night for 9 nights to represent the 9 nights of the journey Mary and Joseph took from Nazareth to Bethlehem. Participants in the village are either pilgrims or inn keepers for the procession. The pilgrims are led through town by 2 children, usually carrying a small platform with figurines of Mary and Joseph riding a burro. The pilgrims stop at houses asking for lodging from the inn keepers. They are refused and turned away repeatedly. Finally one of the inn keepers tells them there is no room, but they can stay in the stalls out back. This is when the party begins! The last home opens its doors and the pilgrims enter to sing songs and offer prayers at an altar and a nativity scene, or naciamento. After some food and drinks the children get to take aim at the pinata. The lucky child to crack it open releases candy and treats for all the children present. These parties continue every night until December 24th.
On Christmas Eve, Noche Buena, the party leads to a huge celebration at midnight with fireworks, ringing bells, and whistles. The community all head to church to participate in mass and celebrate the arrival of the baby Jesus. After mass it is time for the huge celebration dinner. Dinner and the excitement of the celebration last until the early dawn hours of Christmas Day. After all this partying and excitement it is no surprise that Christmas Day is treated as a day of well deserved rest. The focus on your community and the nightly gatherings sound like a great way to mark the holidays. Las Posadas makes me want to shout out Feliz Navidad!